- We said our goodbyes to Rio and Geraldo and boarded our flight to Salvador da Bahia. A few pople hear “Salvador” and immediately think San Salvador in El Salvador. No folks, not that place located in Central America where they had a brutal civil war ending in 1992. Bahia is a 2 hr flight north of Rio. We are now on the last leg of the trip and its time for a little relaxation. The Deville (dee veal lay) Hotel, 10 minutes from the airport is the perfect place. It offers everything a top resort needs: Fitness, sauna, pool, umbrellas and chaise loungers around the tropical-looking pool area and the raintree shower in the bathroom is just what the doctor ordered. We may be 40 minutes from the pelourhino but we’ll pay our visits the next 2 days, always returning to our oasis, away from the hustle bustle of the historic center of town.Being in Bahia gave the group the opportunity to experience Bahian style cuisine. It definitely has the West African influence. Our package included a welcome buffet lunch which included an array of salads, fruits, desserts, spare ribs (BBQ and roasted, stewed chicken, feijoada (black beans with smoked ham), greens, pastas and much more.The sky was overcast but the weather was quite warm — perfect for lounging round the pool.
The next day our panoramic tour of the Lower City was scheduled. We stopped by Yemanja House, next to the sea. It’s the meeting place of the local fishermen where they bring offerings to the Goddess of the Sea. We continued along the Carnival route on our way to the lighthouse and learned Carnival is not so special for the locals because its so expensive to get into the parties where it can cost $500usd for admission but of course, there is still lots of partying in the streets. We then drove along Centenery Avenue and saw the beautiful statues of the Orixas (Orishas), rising out of a small lake, 8 life sized, fiber glass statues demonstrate Salvador’s spiritual heritage. Their colors are brilliant, almost blending in with the splashing water, trees and fishing boats.
There was a mass in progress this day, Sunday, so the group was unable to visit the room of miracles at Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (our Lord of the good end). The walls are covered with photos and testimonials giving thanks for healings. This is where you will see hundreds of colorful ribbons tied to the gates, blowing in the breeze. One day I will tell you about my many healings of which I give God thanks and praises daily. You know that old Congregational church song, “He’s done so much for me, I cannot tell it all”? Well, that’s me!We made a few more stops along the way. A convenient and quite interesting stop was the home of Prince, an elderly gent whose craft of hand painted tiles was amazing. He and his wife open their doors for a restroom and water break while his guests browse his beautiful collection. Not too far from Prince’s casa we all wanted to stop for some of the best ice cream imaginable — The Sorveteria da Ribeira ice cream parlor, voted the best for 10 consecutive years. I guess the secret to their success is that it was founded in 1931 by an Italian immigrant. Ariel had us all wanting to taste the caipirinha flavor but sadly, it wasn’t available. I went for 2 boules (scoops) in a cup — banana and dark chocolate. Mmmmm, it was thee BEST!
The next day was our African oriented Upper City tour which starts in the historic center. This is the heart and soul —the Pelourhino. This is where the slaves were punished. After slavery was abolished it started to become a rich culture center. It is here that one sees the sights, hears the sounds and tastes the cuisine of all that is West African.
FROM AFRICA TO BRAZIL – After overlooking the city from the top side, we headed towards the historic center, first passing the statue of Zumbi dos Palmares — freedom fighter and last leader of the Quilombos (African refugee settlements). Zumbi was captured and beheaded Nov 20, 1695. Nov 20th is his day, a day of Afro Brazilian consciousness. Zumbi Festival is a major festival and people from all over the world celebrate in the town of Macieo, about an hour’s flight from Salvador. It has also become the national Day of Black Awareness all over the country. Salvador’s rich African heritage has awarded them with the nickname Roma Negra (black Rome).
We made our way to MAFRO – The Afo Brazilian museum, exclusively dedicated to Afro-Brazilian heritage, a museum that documents the slave trade. Various artifacts, masks and other objects tell of everyday life as it was on the African continent. There was also a large map of the slave trade from Africa to the Americas and a huge diagram of a slave ship showing how the slaves were stacked before the long, hot, miserable and treacherous Atlantic crossing – a journey they would endure — never to return. Those that survived faced the grueling work of the mines and plantations that benefited the Portuguese economy. Millions from the Kingdom of Benin were sent to Brazil. 80 percent of African slaves went to Brazil or to the Caribbean; in contrast, only 10% went to the U.S., where slavery was maintained through natural reproduction among the slave population as opposed to the constant supply of new slaves from Africa.
The Pelourhino is more African than some parts of Africa. Last year Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos (also called the black church) was closed for restoration but we were blessed to enter this time. It was built in the 1700s, took almost 100 years to build by black hands, blood, sweat and tears of slaves and sadly, blacks could not worship there for many years. The interior is astonishingly beautiful with inlaid gold and statues of the church’s few black saints. We also saw where the free blacks sat separated from the slaves. Outside behind the church is a shrine built for slave, Anastasia. She was strikingly beautiful and envied by the slave master’s wife who had an iron mask put on her face. She eventually died from gangrene.
Next to the church is the Gastronomy museum, managed by SENAC, which is one of the first in the world. It displays all that is important to the food and cooking of the Bahian style, ingredients that are essential parts of the Bahian pantry – like grated coconut and dende’ palm oil. SENAC is a Brazilian vocational institute in all major cities in Brazil.
The group’s final lunch together was a real treat, conveniently located on the other side of the museum and also managed by SENAC is the SENAC Restaurant. Its a teaching facility as well as a restaurant where the cooks, bartenders and wait staff are all students. This is by far the best Bahian unlimited buffet around with over 40 available dishes, with at least a dozen types of moquecas – fish, shrimp, etc.
As the tour winds down, I reflect on the past 12 days of this Kattrax adventure and I am reminded of words from my mother after all of our wonderful international trips together, “I have no sad stories to tell”. In other words, it couldn’t have been more perfect, friendships were formed that will last forever, God kept us safe, protected from all hurt, harm and danger and on point about our surroundings as we “tangoed” and “catwalked” in Argentina, “sambaed” in Brazil and last but not least Kat Tracked all over South America.
Please check around your seat for any personal belongings you may have brought on board with you and please use caution when opening the overhead bins, as heavy articles may have shifted around during the flight.
On behalf of Kattrax and the entire crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you on board in the near future.
Upcoming 2013 Tours: 11 Night Mediterranean Cruise on Celebrity June 17-28
5 Night Exotic Dubai & Abu Dhabi Sept 1-7
9 Night Luxury South African Safari Oct 3-14
14 Night Southeast Asia cruise on Azamara Club’s Journey Nov 25-Dec 9
7 Night New Year’s Cruise on Celebrity to Southern Caribbean Dec 28 – Jan 4
La Vie en Noire – Paris Tours March 27 – April 3 &
April 3 -10
10 night Egyptian Odyssey – Includes 4 night Nile cruise Nov 7 – 17
Stay tuned for additional 2014 tours